Hundreds of students from Tondo, Manila who served as mascots or player escorts during the FIBA World Cup were honored during a ceremony that also marked the 4th year of San Miguel Corporation’s Better World Community Center, a food bank and learning institution that caters to over 500 families in the area.
The said students from General Vicente Lim Elementary School received FIBA kits containing headbands, shoes, t-shirts, shorts, socks, basketballs as well as products from San Miguel Purefoods during the FIBA Wanda Little Champions event organized together with the San Miguel Foundation.
The event was also attended by FIBA local organizing committee (LOC) officials Eric Altamirano and Wanda Little Champions Project Lead Josh Paulite, Magnolia Chicken Timplados Hotshots coach Chito Victolero, and Hotshots forward Rome De la Rosa.
“We are very happy with the participation of Better World Tondo and the Gen. Vicente Lim Elementary School,” said Altamirano, head of the National Basketball Training Center, who once called the shots for the Purefoods team in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
“On behalf of the FIBA LOC, we thank San Miguel Foundation for supporting the FIBA Wanda Little Champions program,” he added.
Victolero, whose two young sons were among the children who walked with players from the various World Cup teams during entrance parades, expressed his gratitude for the rare opportunity accorded the grade school boys and girls, some of whom were from the Better World community and the said school.
“We’re very thankful, grateful and proud with San Miguel Foundation for the chance to be part of that program,” said Victolero. “It was an experience na talagang di na nila [his sons] malilimutan hanggang tumanda na siguro sila.
“We don’t know kelan uli makakabalik dito ang FIBA World Cup so magandang experience talaga yon for the youth, especially sa mga anak ko. It’s something that they will treasure habang nabubuhay sila,” he added.
A teacher from Gen. Vicente Lim Elementary School, Prescila Ascuna, said potential FIBA World Cup kids were screened before a list was drawn.
“Great opportunity po ito, hindi lamang para sa school kundi para sa mga bata,” she said. “Siempre, once in a lifetime lang po namin ito mararanasan. Kaya napaka-grateful po namin sa San Miguel Foundation kasi kahit medyo ginagabi, pag uwi ng mga bata, at sa pagbalik-balik nila during the duration of the World Cup, meron silang ini-uuwing memorable experience.”
All the grade schoolers at Gen. Lim Elementary made known their jubilation for their inclusion in the FIBA Wanda Little Champions pre-game revelry, and spoke about the sheer joy of the moment.
The San Miguel Corporation-Better World Tondo community center was opened by SMC president and CEO Ramon S. Ang in September 2019 in an effort to reduce both food waste and hunger.
San Miguel Foundation led the Better World morning events, along with Rise Against Hunger Philippines and AHA Learning Center.
Before noon, the ceremony shifted to the Gen. Vicente Lim Elementary covered court for the FIBA Wanda Little Champions event.
SMC, through San Miguel Beer as event partner, supported the 2023 FIBA World Cup, which the country co-hosted with Japan and Indonesia.
The Philippines’ biggest conglomerate has also opened its sports manpower resources to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas during the formation of the Gilas Pilipinas team for the World Cup, as well as for the forthcoming 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
The Wanda Group, meanwhile, is a multinational corporation founded in Dalian, Liaoning and headquartered in Beijing. It deals with construction, diversified investments, entertainment and media, and financial services.
The Little Champions event was launched during the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China as a means of connecting to the future generation of potential national players.